A newly married mechanic, Chima Ikwunado, allegedly died under extreme torture in the hands of E-Crack squad domiciled at Mile One Police division in Diobu, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, close to end of December, 2019. The rest of the Ikokwu 5 as they are now known around the world who have just been freed opened up at a press briefing Friday, January 31, 2020, at D/Line, giving horrific details of how the young man died.
Chima was arrested with four other mechanics and technicians at about 7pm on December 19, 2019 for driving one way at Agip Road area while coming from Ikokwu area. The construction of three flyovers and many other access roads made many roads in the Garden City to block, leading to many using any escape route.
From the moment the five men were arrested, torture allegedly took over and man’s inhumanity to man showed its ugly face. The five were accused of armed robbery, meaning that they must have robbed the two cars (Toyota Camry and Toyota Corrola) they were found in. Their protestation of innocence meant nothing to the five policemen under E-Crack that apprehended them. Two were bundled into the boot of a Land Rover while the rest rode along in the two cars.
At the Mile One Station, extreme torture allegedly took over until some days later, the master, Chima, dropped dead. The two boys, Osaze Friday and Ifeanyi Osuji, said they carried his corpse from the cell to outside to report that their leader had died, but that the death evoked no single regret or pity from the police team. Thus, Nigerians woke up to a heroic feat by one Erepamo Eradiri and Chinedu Ezenwaliri (car owners) when they raised alarm about the plight of their auto mechanics named late Chima Ikwunado, Victor Ogbonna, Osaze Friday, Ifeanyi Osuji and Ifaenyi Onyekwere.
The Police authorities acknowledged the detention of these lads with their Eagle Crack Squad led by a Superintendent of Police, Benson Adetuyi, domiciled in their Mile 1 Police station. On the 21st of January 2020, the police informed the public that the late Chima Ikwunado, the primary suspect, had died as a result of increased sugar levels in his body and this information they obtained by conducting an autopsy on him.
According to a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) report, on the 23rd of January 2020, the police deliberately charged the remaining four boys for cultism and armed robbery to a court without jurisdiction and they were remanded in prison to wait till the 23rd of February 2020. But, on January 29, following mass protests and international uproar, the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Port Harcourt discharged and acquitted the boys following a report from the office of the Director of Prosecution (DPP) which found no incriminating evidence linking the Ikokwu 4 with the charges.
This was more so because the owners of the so-called robbed cars had sworn to affidavits stating that they willingly gave their cars to Chima for repairs, and that they never reported the cars stolen. The CSOs led by Enefaa Georgewill said: “We have carefully followed the matter as it unfold not unmindful of the challenges of an undermanned, ill equipped, ill-trained and undisciplined Nigeria’s first line of defence of its citizens, the Nigeria Police. The serial abuse of the rights of these boys by the police and its arrogance has compelled us to gather here today.”
Chima’s pregnant wife, Adaugo, who had been fainting intermittently, said all she wanted was for her husband to come back home. The CSOs and Ohanaeze Ndigbo coalition demanded the release of the remaining survivors and release of Chima’s body for autopsy. The boys were released the next two days.
Injuries and testimonies in horror
The testimony of the survivors right from the time they were arrested in December 19, 2019 till January 29, 2020, and the kind of injuries on their bodies, are a picture of the new Nigeria not of our dream. Every single method seen with the Libyan terrorists seemed to have been perfected by the Nigeria Police or the crack squads. The operatives would machete someone’s head without question. They would tie them up hand and feet and hang them from morning till night, asking them to tell the truth.
One said he was made to witness his colleague’s head cut open and was given count of three to confess to being an armed robber and cultist. He said he admitted so, just to live. Based on that, they now went to work on Chima to equally admit, but he kept swearing his innocence until his body made up of bare bones, allegedly bleeding of blood and water, gave up at about 5.30am that fateful day. The evening before he died, according to his co-prisoners, Chima could not eat the rice that was brought. The testimony said after his last round of torture, he could only crawl with buttocks. Another colleague was using only belly to crawl like a snake. That was the level humans were reduced to at the Mile One Police Station.
How Civil Society Organisations are mourning the decline to barbarism in the police
Eugene Abels: The Extra Step Initiative:
We have seen fatal injuries everywhere. Thanks to those helping in the fight. What is on show is serial institutional abuse and failings. We have a police system where citizens are picked up without warrant order, detained to any length of time, killed at will, buried in shallow graves without fear of any consequences.
We now have Ikokwu 29 in detention just for protesting what happened to Ikokwu 5. We now have the arrogance of the Nigeria Police: Imagine arresting people in front of their shops; charging them to wrong courts, case shifted to February 28, 2020 and citizens serve prison terms technically, indirectly.
The boys, who survived the ordeal from December 19, 2019 to January 29, 2020, were kept in inhuman conditions in prison where people were packed like fish in a carton, gumming each other like rows of sardine. They were never given their constitutional right to contact their parents to know where they were, until weeks later. Police now have a death squad and torture chamber in Port Harcourt where they hang people upside down like bats for endless hours. This is barbaric. SARS just changed name to E-Crack.
In all this matter, what is the Commissioner of Police saying? What is the Inspector-General saying? What is the Provost Marshal of the Police (if any), the Police Service Commission, or the National Assembly saying? Why is the presidency keeping so quiet? The police are depreciating daily. The Army won’t do this because they have functional office of Provost Marshal that can arrest even a General.
We commend the Rivers State government that acted at last to save the rest of the Ikokwu 5. Let them also free the protesting Ikokwu boys now in prison.
Enefaa Georgewill of CSOs Coalition
Breaches: The police criminally arrested people going about their lawful business. There was no report against them. The police are committing killings, disposal of bodies and autopsy without relations, and abductions. Another set of 29 Ikokwu men are clamped in detention and prison merely for asking questions about their five colleagues. They are framed with heinous crimes and sent to wrong courts.
They are visiting pains and injuries on the wife of Chima, his father and unborn child, plus relations of his boys. We hear the Rivers State police command wants to investigate the matter but we do not trust them to be neutral. Let the IG set up a team to investigate this. Let the police return the office of Provost Marshal in the police. The National Assembly should step into this matter.
Let the Rivers State government help to release the Ikokwu 29 freshly detained. The governor should speak up on this matter, for any side. This is happening in your state.
The Civil Society Organisations and families of the victims will sue the police.
Others: Today in Port Harcourt, it seems to be a crime to be found with two ATM cards by the police. Some have paid dearly for it. A police officer told human rights lawyers in the court premises yesterday that these special squads established by the CP or IG are wreaking havoc on citizens. They even hang around banks and if they look at you, they could pick you to far destination and force you to empty your account to them. Police is now a revenue yielding unit. Police officers too are sad.
Magistrates in Rivers State should exercise their rights and move into detention camps and see the condition of inmates. They have the power to free persons or ask the case to be sent to court immediately. The boys who survived this nightmare revealed in confidence that there are 97 of such cases in their cell alone.
Ohanaeze: Felix Onwuma
We thank the CSOs, press and many groups that are fighting on this matter especially the release of the four. Igbos want to bury their son. Igbos do not leave their dead ones.
The Ikokwu chairman was invited by the police but was let to go later. We are watching. Rivers State is a peaceful place, let nobody cause friction and start crisis.
Citizen’s report on the Chima killing
Joseph Obari, lawyer and journalist, posted what he knew on his social media handles Thursday night.
Ikokwu 5: Shoddy police cover-up in Port Harcourt gives insight into their evil tactics
As the world prepared for Christmas last year, five young men in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, fell into the snares of a Nigeria Police squad, called the E-Crack Team, operating from Mile 1 Police Station. What seemed like a ‘normal’ encounter with law enforcement agents was to set in motion a horrendous chain of events that would shock the world.
All through the Christmas and New Year festivities, the families of the five Igbo traders and artisans were in palpable fear over the lives of their loved ones when they were informed of their arrest and detention on the allegation of snatching two cars.
Curiously, on December 30, 2019, the police released the two “snatched” cars to their owners. When one of the owners of the allegedly stolen cars went on social media to tell the world that the mechanic to whom he gave his car for repairs was being framed by the police for armed robbery, pressure was mounted on the police and they went into bizarre frenzy to cover up their lousy asses.
Fearing the worst, the families contacted a lawyer who swung into action to secure the release of the five men. His interactions with the police confirmed the fears of the families: the young men had been severely tortured, subjected to terrible inhuman treatments and were in poor state of health.
Then the bombshell! One of them, Chima Ikwunado could not be accounted for as the police rushed on January 9, 2020 to create information charging them with cultism and armed robbery. The charge sheet which is dated January 9, claimed that they were arraigned on January 6. The Information presented to the Chief Magistrates court alluded to “others at large”. The police were taciturn on the fate of Chima. Then news filtered in that Chima was dead and all hell broke loose.
All of Rivers State rose in condemnation of the police. People called radio stations to narrate similar ordeals in the hands of the police and how they paid huge amounts of money to escape the fate of the five men who became known as the Ikokwu 5. Ikokwu is an expansive area of Diobu, in Port Harcourt famous for vehicle spares. The dealers and technicians that support the market are mainly Igbos.
Of course, the Chief Magistrates Court lacked jurisdiction to try the suspects and remanded them in E-Crack cell in the so-called Port Harcourt Correctional Centre. With strident calls and scathing criticisms from the public, the police was forced to admit the death of Chima and went for a last ditch attempt at cover-up, saying that the young man died of, wait for it: HIGH BLOOD SUGAR! It was the outcome of an autopsy procured by the police and the police alone.
If they thought that the statement would douse agitations, it only succeeded in infuriating the already angry residents. Colleagues of the victims at Ikokwu marched out in protest, but the police went after them. Their protest was frustrated and 29 of them were arrested and locked up. They are yet to be released. To add salt to the injury, the Rivers State government issued a statement warning of dire consequences should anyone disturb the peace and urged all law abiding residents to go about their usual businesses.
Tension was in the red zone Fahrenheit. Ohanaeze Ndigbo leaders in Rivers State, civil society organisations, the NBA and others rose to the occasion, demanding justice for the dead and the incarcerated, specifically, the release of Chima’s body to the family for independent autopsy and the release of any person detained in connection with the E-Crack adventure. The pregnant wife of the deceased mechanic came out to debunk the insinuation that her late husband was diabetic.
In the ensuing melee, the gentleman who blew the lead on police cover-up, owner of one of the ‘snatched’ cars, informed the world that he was being threatened by some persons.
Then on Wednesday, January 29, the Port Harcourt Chief Magistrates Court discharged and acquitted the four surviving persons. It was acting on the advice from the DPP which revealed that the suspects had no case to answer; the charges against them by the police were unfounded and should not have come up in the first place, because they were mere speculations.
“We discovered that the allegations against the boys were mere speculations and unfounded and it is not a matter we could be able to prosecute”, Rivers State Director of Public Prosecution, Ibiene Mbano said.
When eventually the surviving four men were released, the sores and scars on their bodies told the gory tales of what they went through in the hands of the monsters that call themselves policemen. One of them came on air to narrate how they were hung on crossbars behind the police station and systematically tortured to confess to being criminals. Their repeated denials only incensed the fiendish squad which included a woman. They maimed and brutalised them until Chima’s body could not take it no more and he was dragged away never to be seen till now.
The question is: how did we get here? How did we recruit beasts and gave them the powers to cage us? How did our police personnel lose their humanity? How are policemen able to disobey the law with impunity; frame up people on barefaced lies and get away with it? What really is wrong with us? What kind of leaders do we have? What kind of society are we leaving our children? The answers to all these questions are frightening. We are in a society where values are fast being eroded; a sick society!
The Ikokwu 4 have regained their freedom, but it doesn’t end there. It should NOT end there. They deserve compensation. They are in urgent need of proper medical attention, especially one of them whose wounds are looking gangrenous. And most importantly, we await the police authorities who have been dead silent on assurances to uphold justice in the midst of all this. No criminal in or out of uniform should violate other citizens and escape justice! WE ARE WATCHING. It is one abuse too many.
The revolution against extreme torture and extreme policing may have just started.